While in Oakland, I stumbled upon Adult Recess in Ogawa Plaza. Ogawa Plaza, directly in front of Oakland City Hall, is a fairly well designed public space. There is a central amphitheater area with plenty of ledges for seating. While shade in this area is not abundant, the moderate temperatures of Oakland allow for a comfortable stay nonetheless. Other areas have many benches and even some shade trees. The plaza is well framed by neighboring buildings, many of which include restaurants or retail. These amenities both benefit from the plaza as well as bring people to the plaza.
The Adult Recess was organized by the Oakland Parks and Recreation. This was a great event that provided activities for the downtown office workers in Oakland. It also showed the power of effective programming to enliven a public space. Activities included dancing, ground billiards played with golf putters, large scale checkers and chess, hula-hooping and jump-rope. Many people were out taking part in these activities and visiting vendors at tables. The event created an immensely interesting event for me a visitor and probably an unimaginable respite from the daily work routine of area office workers. The only real problem with such an event is the relative infrequency. While it may be challenging to get all of the games and activities organized in the plaza on a weekly basis, there is no reason that a daily market should be out of the question. If every day, there was at least a market with foods and vegetables as well as other items, this plaza would attract people from a greater area. The market would also provide an affordable entry into the market for potential businesses. New stores and possibly new products could be the result of a daily market in front of City Hall. There are uncounted numbers of urban plazas and public spaces that could benefit from such markets.